Japanese Gum: Hey Folks! Nevermind, We Are All Falling Down

Japanese Gum are the Italian duo of Paolo Tortora and Davide Cedolin. Their aim is to create soundscapes that are both challenging and experimental while retaining a commercial edge and to a certain extent they manage to do what it says on the tin. The music itself sound like The Jesus and Mary Chain jamming with Ennio Morricone, but the reverb laden vocals are reduced to nothing more than an annoying mumble at the back of the mix as if put there as an after thought.

If commercial success is the game plan for the guys, well it ain't gonna happen, although they do have crossover appeal for both the dance and indie markets. I do actually really like this album. I like the lo-fi production and experimental nature of it. I also like the fact that there are actually songs on here. It is easy for an act to hide behind the technology and dazzle us with a series of electronic bleeps and breaks that make no concession to actually making it an enjoyable experience for the listener. On this album Japanese Gum manage to balance the music and the technology, vocals apart, pretty much perfectly.

It would not be fair to review this on an individual track basis as it is clearly not intended to be listened to that way. Instead listen to this album as a whole and immerse yourself in the chilled soundtrack. As avant guarde as it is, it is actually an enjoyable experience.


[][][][ (3.5/5)

~ Thursday, 17 December 2009

Andrew Vincent: Rotten Pear

There is something familiar about Vincent. It is not because this is the 5th album from the Canadian, but more to do with the way his music crosses genres. This album goes from folk to punk to indie while hardly pausing for breath.

The voice is fragile, part Don McLean part Paul Simon, and as such it works best when the music is more restrained. Opener Hi Lo is the perfect vehicle for him, as is the hypnotic Going Out Tonight. Both these songs have a gentle rhythm and warm arrangements that don't swamp the subtle tone of his voice. Where this album struggles to work is when he strays into the twee indie mumbling of Fooled Again and the particularly mind numbing Nobody Else. Think Elliot Smith on anti depressants.

This album for me is two albums that never quite made it and ended up as one. Like he couldn't make up his mind what he wanted to do. Pity, as he really does excel on the bittersweet and mellower tracks. It is only when he tries to rock out that is fails miserably.

When he can write songs of the beauty of Sleep To Dream and the equally wonderful Bus Stop, it is hard to believe that he is capable of writing dross like Under Your Thumb. We are subjected to quite possibly some of the most cringe worthy lyrics of the year when he warbles 'you wanna fight, you wanna fuck and you wanna get high' and believe me, that is only the tip of the iceberg.

This had the possibility of being a worthy album (check out his cover of Kate Bush's Hounds Of Love), but Vincent strays to far from what he is good at. This mixed with the naive narrative he gives to his songs, means that this is, with the odd exception, a pretty forgettable record.


[][][ (2.5/5)

~ Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Don Lee: Signs and Other Symbols

This second album from the New Jersey singer songwriter wears its influences on its sleeve. From the first few chords of opener Locked Out there is no doubt that Squeeze, and Glenn Tilbrook in particular, have played a major part in Lee's musical upbringing.

The music is quirky with low budget production values which only adds to its likability as
he mounts a charm offensive with a clutch of infectiously catchy tunes that lodge themselves in your head and rattle around, resulting in random humming and foot tapping. Miracle is a fine example of his craft with its instantly singable chorus and chiming guitars. Lee obviously has a grasp of crafting a pop song, but he really is going to find it hard to shake off the Squeeze comparisons.

What Would It Take To Make You Stay? is probably his biggest departure from the sound that pervades the rest of the album, with his vocals sounding like a Jack Daniels drinking Paul McCartney
. Ok, it is pretty much a whole hearted rip off of Tilbrook's solo work, just listen to his Transatlantic Ping Pong or The Incomplete Glenn Tilbrook albums and you will see what I mean, but Lee does have an undeniable likability about him and obviously has a passion for what he does that may just prove enough to make him his own man. I hope it does as this is a good album.


[][][][] (4/5)

~ Monday, 14 December 2009

Codeine Velvet Club: Hollywood/I Am The Resurrection (single)

The Fratellis front man Jon Lawler is a busy man. Not content with shifting 2 million albums with his day job, he brings us his Phil Spector lounge inspired project backed with a deal from Island Records. If you are expecting the Fratellis, then your going to be disappointed.

Hollywood is a lush slab of pop that brings to mind ELO with a slice of the Pet Shop Boys thrown in for good measure. The vocal interaction with Lawler and the fresh talent of Lou Hickey gives the song a slight festive feel. The flip side is a cover of the Stone Roses classic I Am The Resurrection and pretty good it is to.

Their debut album is released on the 28th Dec and is already causing a stir with the radio lovies don't you know.


Listen to I Am The Resurrection

~ Friday, 11 December 2009

The Hush Now: Wishing You A Happy Christmas (single)

There is no tinsel or jingle bells going on here with this Crimbo single that the Boston 5 piece are giving away free on their website.

In terms of quality, this is not going to set the world on fire. Don't get me wrong... It is not a bad song, but it is badly recorded and singer Noel Kelly sounds like he has a ferret attached to his nuts. If the band want to achieve commercial success, perhaps Kelly needs to step back and concentrate on his guitar skills and leave the vocals to someone more capable.

Our advice is to give this a miss and instead download their far more appealing self titled debut album which they are also giving away for free from the link below.


Download The Hush Now for free

~ Wednesday, 9 December 2009

I, Ludicrous: We're The Support Band (single)

To those of us of a certain age and with a self deprecating sense of humour, I, Ludicrous will raise a knowing smile. With an overwhelming love of Mark E Smith, their music is The Fall meets Suicide meets Frank Sidebottom. They don't take themselves to seriously and nor should you.

We're The Support Band is a new recording of their anthem for all those acts who have found themselves first on the bill in the back room of the local boozer with a drummer who has no rhythm, a bass player who thinks he is Lemmy and a singer with a vocal style similar to a stylophone. Yes this is a fun single. The joke could wear a bit thin on repeated listening, but who cares. It I, Ludicrous. Their legends and we love em'.



Portico Quartet: Isla

Instrumental albums can be a strange affair. They rely purely on the strength of the music. There is no singer to hide behind. No big personality hogging the mic. Then again jazz is one of those styles that can easily pull off the instrumental album with aplomb. The Portico Quartet are an interesting proposition. They are a jazz band, no doubt, but they combine elements from Classical, Latin and middle Eastern music to great effect. The result is at times dis-jointed, but hey, that's jazz.

For me this is a mixed bag. There is no doubting the talent of the musicianship on display and there are some real moments of pure joy. Opener Paper Scissors Stone is an atmospheric workout that sees some fantastic Sax work by Jack Wylie and The Visitor, as with Dawn Patrol, has a hypnotic vibe that is hard to resist, but on Shed Song and Clipper they descend into a blur of self indulgence that leaves the listener behind.

Ok, these blips aside this is a very enjoyable piece of work. It probably won't appeal to those who are taking their first foray into the jazz world, but it certainly should not be discounted, as I defy anyone to listen to Life Mask and not be moved. It is worth buying for this track alone.


[][][] (3/5)

~ Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Gliss: Devotion Imposion

The jury is out for me on this one. In fact, to be honest the jury’s out, came back and delivered a rotten verdict. Gliss! You’re being banged up. I sentence you to 18 months listening to some decent records in the hope that you learn about structure, arrangement and how to switch off and stop hiding behind a distortion pedal.

I’m not sure if the band are too busy trying to be cool and stay with it with interesting tweets and tales of their mates and partying on the road, but the good bands can do both, party and deliver great albums. You’re trying too hard to be cool. Though maybe they are cool and I’m missing the point? Fair enough.

There’s just a feeling that I’ve heard it all before and I have, loads of times. I don’t know. It sounds particularly eighties and not too the inspiring. There are some nice touches such as 29 Acts of Love and also on Morning Light which are good but you spend more time trying to remember who they sound like. I’m not sure if they’re really into this or they’re just taking the Gliss? This album should’ve been called Style Over Content. The songs aren’t strong enough and it feels like they’re standing in front of the mirror waiting for pop stardom to arrive. You’ve missed the boat.

It also sounds like they’re the bitter old guys in the hip pub that used to be cool but can’t quite give it up. Sometimes you wish people would just be a bit more inspired, try a bit harder. We don’t need another copy of a copy of a band doing their best to be a Black Rebel Motorcycle Club sound-alike with the ubiquitous hippy chick with cool cheek bones trying to do her Nico really low in the mix.

It sounds like they read the book of rock’n’roll, but fell asleep at the bit about talent. This in case you haven’t picked up yet, is a resounding no. This is turgid, uninspiring and average. They get one mark for at least having a go. This is all I have to say.


[] (1/5)

Review by Charlie Brown


Seasonal Sevens: Autumn

The Seasonal sevens are a series of 7" vinyl single releases by Autumn Ferment Records that features 2 different artists contributing a song representing the various seasons. For this the Autumn edition the label has brought together Pamela Wyn Shannon and The Magickal Folk of the Faraway Tree, both equally beguiling in their own right.

Woolgathering from Wyn Shannon is quite simply beautiful. Her voice is soothing and inspiring, interacting perfectly with the instrumentation of the dreamy guitar, lilting strings and ethereal sound of the glockenspiel. Really wonderful stuff.

The Magickal Folk's offering is the low-fi, slightly twee The Blackthorn Tree. The off kilter vocal harmonies are endearing, giving the song a feel of a modern day nursery rhyme.

It is brilliant to see a small label that is bringing out quality music in a vinyl format. Long may it continue.



Michael MacLennan: History (e.p)

MacLennan may find it hard to avoid comparisons with the likes of Jamie Cullum or Billy Joel, but then again that is not bad company to be in. This e.p showcases the jazz/pop style of the Scottish songwriter and will certainly find him favour from the radio 2 faithful. Title track History is a jazz infused ballad that benefits from a great arrangement and MacLennan easy piano style.

The Long Goodbye is a storming anthemic slice of pop that brings to mind Hothouse Flowers and Marc Cohen. Rousing stuff. The sugary Let It Fall is the one track that fails to connect, perhaps because he has set such a high standard with the other two song. The e.p concludes with a studio extra in the shape of I Don't Know Why, a plaintive stripped bare piano and vocal track that shows their is a lot more to come from the talented songwriter.



Rhesus: Bored Games (e.p)

This young 4 piece from the Black Country have their influences in the lighter, poppier side of rock, giving them a more commercial sound than would be the current fashion. Their sound is not a million miles away from American pop rockers like Wheatus or the pop balladry of the Jonas Brothers, but the vocals and production are not yet polished enough to make them stand out.

Of the 4 tracks on offer, it is the opener Liar that is the strongest, having a more driven sound that would certainly make it radio friendly. This e.p shows a lot of promise, but until they find their own sound it is difficult seeing them being anything more than local heroes.



Albino: I Love Everyone (single)

Yeh.... A Christmas single that does not feature Noddy Holder or a squeaky voiced child trying to fill you full of the sentiment of the festive season. Albino are a folk based collective from Widnes who have obviously had their fair share of horror filled family Christmases. The music ticks all the Christmas single boxes. Sleigh Bells. Check. Pan Pipes. Check..... You get the idea, but it is the lyrics that are at the heart of this twisted ditty.

We all have that one relative who gets blind drunk and tries to touch up the daughter of a family friend and tearfully tells everyone how much they love them never to be seen again till next Christmas. This is their anthem. I would not expect to hear this on radio 2 over the festive period, but it would make a refreshing and enjoyable change. All together now..... Bah Humbug.



Twinkranes: Spektrumtheatresnakes

This mini album from Dublin 3 piece Twinkranes is an attention grabber from the off. A blend of driving beats, droning organs, electronic squeaks and aggressive guitars are put to good use on this psychedelic album that Beefheart would have been proud of. There is not much known about these guys. The existence of a biog is noticeable by its absence, so it is fair to say that fame and fortune may not have been the aim with this record, but it may just come their way regardless.

The instrumental opener High Tekk Train Wrekk makes for an uncompromising start. A bullet from a smoking gun that is as infectious as it is un-nerving. This album won't be everyone's cup of tea. Hell, I don't even know if it is mine, but it is highly original.

The production is a straight ahead no frills affair that adds to the retro vibe of the whole album. Witch Hunt is a track that kind of sums up the whole feel of the band. A riotous explosion of relentless sounds that encompass the senses and beats you into submission, while The Charmer strays into prog rock territory ala Emerson, Lake and Palmer, showing a willingness to take on the unfashionable.

Listening to the 7 tracks on here is an interesting, challenging and ultimately rewarding experience that shows a band pushing the bounderies and all the better for it.


[][][][] (4/5)


Cats For Peru: Attack Of The Pitching Machine

This is a seriously endearing debut record from the Sheffield band. Part nu-folk, part quirky indie, they have fashioned a wee niche for themselves that finds them sitting somewhere between Athlete and British Sea Power. There is freshness to their sound that brings to mind The Fall when Mark E Smith was a force to be reckoned with.

Opener Manifesto is a slow burning slice of pop that flirts with electronica that has an anthemic feel to it, but it is when the band plant themselves in the indie field that they excel. Love In A Lift has its roots firmly in the 80's, while the stand out I Love You More Than Evolution is like the bastard offspring of The Zutons.

Not everything works on here. Final track Last Man In Europe is perhaps the weakest link and certainly would not have been missed if it found itself left on the cutting room floor, but this is a forgivable flaw when there are track of such beauty as Answers and the pulsating The Bearded One.

This is an album that certainly should make sure Cats For Peru appear on many peoples radars in 2010. This is an album worth seeking out.


[][][][] (4/5)

~ Tuesday, 1 December 2009